Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Set a Pretty Table

:: Clarity ~ Intention ~ Care ::

What is it?
Set a Pretty Table is 52 Weeks of Enthusiasm and Nourishment and Thoughtful Intention for Tending the Hearth you call Home

Within the very word Hearth, we find Heart and Art ~ (heart)h and he(art)h


Set A Pretty Table will inspire you through 52 weeks of tending the hearth, (heart)h, (he(art) with a simple, enthusiastic reflection, tip or suggestion for each week to support you to create an atmosphere in the home that reflects your values...

  • Each Sunday you'll receive an inspiration, suggestion, tip or reflection for the week.
  • We have a private meeting place to connect and share over the topic each week 

The messages encourage and inspire you to take simple steps to bring beauty and rhythm to your life in very simple ways. They will inspire you to look within, as well as to stretch yourself outward to try new things: to paint, draw, color, sing, model or become more aware of the natural rhythms surrounding you.

“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” 
~ Thomas Moore

Call it "Where the rubber meets the road," the way to put into practice what you hold dear. Simple. Slow. Satisfyingly. Finding beauty, truth and goodness in the art of the everyday.

Each week brings its own unique and distinct inspiration.

I invite you to join this community for the next 52 weeks.

I was inspired to create this community, by the notion that it is attention to the little things in life that count. That the little things matter the most. The Ordinary Arts.

That's why I am calling it Set a Pretty Table.

A table is a place where we come together to nourish ourselves.
To set a pretty table is to make an effort to bring rhythm, beauty and our love, manifest as attention, to the moment.

Each person's perspective of beauty is unique. It is limitless, full of possibility.

Beauty shows up in the small, simple touches, as well as the grandiose and passionate statements.

Beauty, and love, are everywhere.

This course is meant as an inspiration to bring it to the table.

Both literally and figuratively.

As individuals. As parents. As teachers. As caregivers. As grandparents. As hearth tenders. As heart tenders. As artists. As soulful beings. As human beings.

We focus on the ordinary arts.

When we approach our days with this in mind, we are creating mindfulness. It helps us to become more present in the moment.

If you've taken my eCourses before and found the reflections and questions for you helpful, and loved being part of a community, you'll love this course.

It's simple and slow paced yet packed full of depth and meaning.

It's a Simple, Slow and Savory approach to the whole year.

Join a community of hearth tenders and home makers to journey around the year together with 52 weeks of Set a Pretty Table.

Bring a Friend 
Because this is a brand new program, and a brand new year, and it can be fun to try new things with a friend, I am inviting new members to sign up with a friend, with a two for one enrollment opportunity. 

One person enrolls for $99 and sends me the name of the second person who is sharing the membership. This offer is on the table until January 15th.


:: Sign Up Here ::

Included with Membership for Year Round Members of Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 



Welcome my friends to the first ever Celebrate the Rhythm of Life through the Year in Caring for Children Newsletter! That is the official name of my blog and my program.

Each month I leave bits and pieces of myself and my work all over social media, then I see it show up hither and thither. I’ve decided to pull at least some of it together for you, in one place, at the start of each month.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Overwhelmed by the Holidays?

Simple, Slow and Soothing
For the month of December, I have been delighting in the community of my eCourse Simple, Slow and Savory, a course with a wonderful group of mamas, grandmamas, teachers and childcare providers, exploring ways of slowing down and pursuing the simple life through the holidays.

I received a few please help me! emails this morning, from mamas who are not in the eCourse, asking for suggestions of what to do for the child who is overstimulated and overwhelmed from too much of Christmas, too many lights and sounds or too much of the unfamiliar. Holiday overwhelm can make anyone cranky.

Here Goes
How to soothe the soul of a child who is suffering from too much stuff, being away from home, too little rhythm, an onslaught of lights and sounds?

1. Go simple. Simple, simple with my mantra - see below.

2. Stir in some warmth.

3. Protect from more stimulation.

The Mantra
My mantra for childhood is  Eat, Sleep, Play, Love ~ in the Fresh Air.

Lean into my mantra of Eat, Sleep, Play, Love ~ in the Fresh Air.  It works for adults too.
Eat wholesome food. Eat whole food as much as possible. Nutrients matter. The sweets that seem to creep in at the holidays need the wholesome food for balance. Drink plenty of water. (You too!) Keep your mealtimes, keep your mealtime routines, keep it all as consistent as you are able. Eat at the same time each day. Sit down and eat at the table together. If you have particular foods for particular days of the week, such as beans and rice Monday, oats on Tuesday, pizza on Friday, stick with that.  If you light a candle, do that. If you say a blessing, do that. Be consistent. Hold up the child's world as familiar and consistent.

Keep your child's bedtime and bedtime routines. It's easy to slip out of them at the holidays, especially when traveling. In addition to the value of good sleep and enough sleep, the comfort of the familiar is soothing. Keep your bedtime rituals. If your bedtime routine is bath, jammies, bed, story, prayer, keep the sequence in order. Keep it as consistent as possible.

Be sure to carve out time for free, self initiated play. Clear out the stuff and keep the play area simple. Honor your child's need for quiet self initiated play, with no narrative, no interruptions.

This is for moments of connection through out the day. It's easy to be distracted over the holidays when our home rhythm goes out of whack, or when we travel and are away from home. Take special care to spend time with your child each day. It may be snuggling up in a quiet spot for a story after lunch, or going outside for a walk together, or just taking your child's hand for a squeeze. As Gordon Neufeld reminds us, connect with the eyes, the smiles and the nods of the head.

Remember to make the connection first, with the loving eyes, the warm smile and the nod that says, "I'm with you." Then use the gentle re-direction with the royal we, "We do it like this," or with gentle guidance, "It's time for ____ come along." Let connection be the foundation.

~ in the fresh air
Nature soothes and heals. Spend some time out of doors everyday, filling the bird feeder, taking a walk in the woods, shoveling, checking on a neighbor, running in circles around the house, and looking up at the stars in the night sky.

Stir In
Stir in some warmth in the form of bubble baths, hot tea, hot cocoa, snuggle time, warm soup and fire: with a candle, out of doors, by the fireplace or wood stove, the element of fire is both warming and soothing.

For Next Year
Hindsight is everything. ;-) Consider creating a rhythm for the entire Christmas season, from Thanksgiving to Epiphany, that creates a spaciousness of time, and takes the expectation off the single day.

A Question for the Comments
What soothes your child (or you) when there's just too much going on?


Celebrate the Rhythm of Life through the Year :: 
Tending the Hearth
Harmonious Rhythms :: Conscious, Creative and Connected Parenting  :: Waldorf Homeschooling and Homemaking

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Feeling Bad You Didn't Celebrate Santa Lucia?

If you didn't celebrate Santa Lucia today by rousing your family with a crown of flaming candles on your head,  singing songs and carrying a tray of warm coffee and Lucy buns to each family member still in bed, no worries.

It's okay.

You're okay.

You are good enough.

Plenty good enough.

It is a beautiful festival, and for those who celebrate it, wonderful!

For those who do not, it's okay.

In Waldorf schools, the festival of Santa Lucia is typically a celebration that is carried by the Second Grade Class, the grade when Waldorf students spend a good part of the year studying saints and sinners. (Saints and Sinners is a phrase I picked up from Eugene Schwartz of Essential Waldorf. Isn't it a perfect description of what the child is wrestling with at this age?)

The Second Grade Class, sometimes with the help of the class parents with the baking and the clothing adjustments, prepares the goods, learns the songs, appoints a student to serve as Santa Lucia and wear the crown of flaming candles, (for the intrepid, the more cautious use battery lit candles) and then, in the morning, the class sings and serves its way around the school. It's beautiful.

It's a festival that lends itself well to groups.

The kindergarten is sometimes visited, but not always.

It's a festival that meets the particular developmental age of the child.

It's a festival that is celebrated in specific parts of the world.

If you didn't celebrate it, don't worry.

You are good enough.

Plenty good enough.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Just Getting Started with Advent?

                                                   photo by Mark Boisvert
There's No Time Like the Present
My dad likes to say, "There's no time like the present." My dad is 89 years old and just spent the weekend cutting firewood. He still works. He's an amazing guy, my dad and I am so grateful for his practical life wisdom, and so much more. I'm grateful to my mom too. She's 87 years old. I've noticed that people seem to go through phases about telling their age. We like to talk about the children's ages, then there is silence with the middle ages, and then all of a sudden wow, 87 and 89 years old, nearly nine decades. It's a badge of honor. My mom and Dad were born into the Depression and have lots of great stories to tell of their experiences of growing up in hard times.

It's Advent Time
If you're reading or hearing about Advent celebrations and saying to yourself, "I want something meaningful, but don't know how to start, maybe it's too late, I can't figure it out..." No worries. You can start now, because, as my dad likes to say, "There's no time like the present."

Begin with a Wreath
Make a wreath of evergreen boughs. Consider the Waldorf tradition of celebrating the light in each of the four kingdoms of nature over the four weeks of Advent. We're in the second week of Advent, it began on Sunday November 27th. 

If you can't make a wreath, have no trees around, consider purchasing a simple un-decorated wreath.

This week, the second week of Advent began yesterday with the celebration of the light of plants.

Take a few minutes this week to think about the role of plants in your life. Pomegranates, broccoli, berries, walnuts, pecans, clementines, cocoa for chocolate, garlic, onion, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, carrots, potatoes ~ it's all from the kingdom of plants, along with the evergreens! Send some prayers or vibes of thanks to the light in this nourishing food and to the people and forces that make it possible to eat such goodness from the play kingdom.

Make the Wreath
Look around outside where you live to find evergreen boughs. Consider fir, pine, juniper, cedar, arborvitae. Clip some boughs and fasten them onto a ring. If you don't have a ring, make one from coat hangers or heavy wire, whatever you have handy. Green floral wire hides itself well within the green boughs.

Add four candles. Use simple candleholders. They're inexpensive and usually found at thrift shops. Nestle them within the boughs. If you only have two candles, use them and add two later. I you have only one, use that one until you can add more.

You are going to light one candle for each week. Last week's candle celebrates the light in the mineral kingdom.

Decide when you will light the candles. What time of day will you light the candles? Who will light them? Keeping the same rhythm and ritual with this tradition is powerful over time.

I like to light the candles after dark. Some years we do it just before dinner, and some years we do it after dinner when the house is quiet. This can make a soothing before bed ritual.

Be sure to turn out the lights in the room before lighting the candles, so the glow comes from the wreath. If you light the candles before dinner, you might like to keep the candles burning during dinner.

In some families the youngest child lights the candle for the first week, the eldest child lights the candle for the second week, one parent lights the candle for the third week, the other parent lights the candle for the fourth week. When I was the solo parent with two young children, I lit all the candles every week, until my children got old enough to participate.

Begin with the first light of Advent
Light the candle.

The first light of Advent is the light of stones, 
Lights that live in seashells, in crystals and in bones.

Add some elements of the mineral kingdom to your wreath ~ seashells, crystals, gem stones, bones.
Light the second candle.

The second light of Advent is the light of plants,
Plants that reach up into the sun, and in the breezes dance.

During the second week of Advent add elements from the plant kingdom to your wreath ~ I tend to lean towards pinecones, berries, things I can find in the yard.

We have a tradition of singing a Christmas song for each week after we light the candles. Over time one build's up a little repertoire of songs that you sing together as a family. If children scatter first, that's even better, so they're last experience is of the candles lit. (as with the Advent spiral) 

Be sure to take care and gently snuff out the candles when you are done. This helps to maintain a mood of reverence for the celebration.

A few of my favorites for singing with the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath include:

People Look East ~ music and words composed by Eleanor Farjeon, words here, you can see the four kingdoms in the lyrics. Her wonderful book Ten Saints is a treasure for teaching Second grade. 
Deck the Halls ~ since that's what we're doing,

A Wonderful Resource
My all time favorite resource for the holidays is Mary Thienes Schunemann's booklet, The Christmas Star that comes with a CD recording of her beautiful voice singing all the songs you could wish for at Advent and Christmas and Epiphany, along with tips for celebrating the season. She's a wonderful teacher and inspiration to all of us who seek to bring more song into our homes or classrooms. I feel like she is reaching out from the heavenly realm and continuing her teaching from the other side. More on Mary's life here.

A Gift for You
Last but not least, if you'd like more details on this tradition and support for keeping the holidays Simple, Slow and Savory, come on over and join my December eCourse I am offering for free, as a gift to you. It's here.  There's no time like the present!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Period of Watchful Waiting

Thanksgiving came and went.

My thoughts have been with the water protectors in Standing Rock, standing strong to protect their sacred ground, their ancestors' burial sites, the water for their children, their land, their treaty rights, the water for everyone, the very well being of the earth. Watching the Native American people stand clear and strong. Standing for all of us. A time for healing and change. Urging the people and the leaders of the United States to find our identity as a nation, to clarify what this country stands for, and who it is about and act.

It's an unsettling time, and yet a time ripe with hope and potential. A little bit like transition when a woman is giving birth.

The first light of Advent is the light of stones, lights that live in seashells, in crystals and in bones.

Advent is a season in itself, a season of anticipation. The very word "Advent" has in its roots "ad" meaning towards + "venir" to come. Coming towards. Advent is a season of "coming towards." Of anticipation. Of quiet waiting.

It reminds me of my midwifery work in which the first trimester of pregnancy is known as The Period of Adjustment, the second trimester as The Period of Radiant Health and the third trimester as The Period of Watchful Waiting. These come from Helen Varney of Varney's Midwifery.

Advent is like the third trimester, we are in The Period of Watchful Waiting. A time of quiet anticipation. Waiting for what is to come. As the world is waiting, and praying, for  what will come at Oceti Sakowin. Women and healing work at Otceti Sakowin here, scroll down.

Watchful Waiting.

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